Tilda Swinton among 2000+ artists calling for Gaza ceasefire
They accuse governments of “aiding and abetting” Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza
Palestinians face “collective punishment on an unimaginable scale”
Governments should “end their military and political support for Israel’s actions”
Renowned actors Tilda Swinton, Charles Dance, Steve Coogan, Miriam Margolyes, Peter Mullan, Maxine Peake and Khalid Abdalla are among more than two thousand people from across the arts who have signed a letter saying that: “Our governments are not only tolerating war crimes but aiding and abetting them.”
The artists, including Robert del Naja and playwrights Tanika Gupta and Abbie Spallen, condemn “every act of violence against civilians and every infringement of international law whoever perpetrates them”.
THE LETTER IN FULL
We are witnessing a crime and a catastrophe. Israel has reduced much of Gaza to rubble, and cut off the supply of water, power, food and medicine to 2.3 million Palestinians. In the words of the UN’s undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, ‘the spectre of death’ is hanging over the territory.
Gaza is already a society of refugees and the children of refugees. Now, in their hundreds of thousands, bombarded from air, sea and land, Palestinians whose grandparents were forced out of their homes at the barrel of a gun are again being told to flee – or face collective punishment on an unimaginable scale. Dispossessed of rights, described by Israel’s minister of defence as “human animals”, they have become people to whom almost anything can be done.
Our governments are not only tolerating war crimes but aiding and abetting them. There will come a time when they are held to account for their complicity. But for now, while condemning every act of violence against civilians and every infringement of international law whoever perpetrates them, our obligation is to do all we can to bring an end to the unprecedented cruelty being inflicted on Gaza.
We support the global movement against the destruction of Gaza and the mass displacement of the Palestinian people. We demand that our governments end their military and political support for Israel’s actions.
We call for an immediate ceasefire and the opening of Gaza’s crossings to allow humanitarian aid to enter unhindered.”
We mourn the loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives.
We call for peace with justice and an end to Israel’s occupation, apartheid and ongoing genocide;
We call on the Australian government to condemn Israeli war crimes, recognise Palestine and support the ICC investigation;
We call for immediate sanctions on Israel;
We call on Australian trade unions to impose boycotts against Israeli apartheid as they did to isolate apartheid in South Africa;
We call on all Australian organisations and entities that have investments or partnerships in Israeli companies which are complicit in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and apartheid, to divest from such ties.
BDS Australia believes that this tragedy is wholly the result of the impunity given to Israel since 1948 by Western and other governments which have allowed Israel to constantly violate international law and impose its violent military occupation and colonisation throughout the occupied Palestinian Territories and the inhumane 16-year blockade of Gaza.
Palestinians have long called for justice in international law only to be progressively dispossessed and subject to an apartheid regime while Israel and its allies including Australia, maintained the lie of a 2-state solution.
The silence from the Australian government over Israel’s current indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, and the rapidly mounting civilian death toll and widespread destruction, continues this long and disgraceful record of double standards and gives Israel increased impunity and incentive to commit further war crimes.
This year has already seen more Palestinians killed, and more arrested and held without charge, than for three decades. The armed campaign of ethnic cleansing, led by settler militias that enjoy near-complete impunity, has intensified, with their leaders now sitting in the Israeli cabinet. The Hamas attack on Israel came in response to an incursion by these armed thugs supported by Israeli forces, into Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest shrine, with the clear aim of forcing out Muslim worshippers. It also came after increased ethnic cleansing of Palestinian rural communities and major military incursions into the West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin this year.
The building of Jewish-only illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank has reached a record level this year. The entire settlement-building programme is a war crime, in breach of the unambiguous prohibition in the Fourth Geneva Convention: “An occupying power must not move any part of its population into the territory it occupies”.
Key international, Palestinian and Israeli human rights reports have shown conclusively that Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians, both grave crimes against humanity in international law. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, his government and the Opposition do not even acknowledge these findings, yet Australia as a signatory to international conventions, is obliged in law to take action to end these crimes.
Labor in 2022, went to the election with a national policy platform that committed it, once in office, to recognising Palestine as a state “as an important priority”. No progress has been made on even this modest demand.
This is significant in withholding Australia’s support for the investigation by the International Criminal Court into war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories since June 2014, when indiscriminate Israeli bombardment killed over 2,000 civilians in Gaza.
As the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”.
Through its collusion in closing off legal, diplomatic and political pathways to justice, Australia has blood on its hands. The Palestinians have been driven, by Australia among other countries, to the last resort of rebellion against tyranny and oppression.
This is BDS Australia’s response to the Melbourne University Student Union Motion passed recently in support of BDS as a non-violent means to pressure Israel to end its violations of Palestinian human rights. (See below for the motion).
We are writing to congratulate you on your recent vote of support for the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel, in favour of Palestinian rights.
The political project to maintain Jewish majority and rule throughout historic Palestine, entails ongoing crimes against humanity and cannot be separated from this.
The call for BDS has grown internationally, and is a crucial, non-violent way to apply pressure to the Israeli government to act in accordance with international law and cease its grave violations of Palestinian human rights. The spread of this movement among universities is proved not only by your own initiative but also the recent publication of an editorial in The Crimson, the student newspaper at Harvard University, indicating support for BDS.
A series of expert reports have established a wide consensus of credentialed opinion, backed by rigorously assembled evidence, that Israel is operating a system of apartheid in its treatment of Palestinians. These reports have come from international monitoring groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; from Israeli NGOs Yesh Din and B’Tselem, and from a group of Palestinian human rights organisations (Al-Haq, Badil, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a-Damir, the Al-Mizan Centre for Human Rights, the Civil Coalition for Palestinian Rights in East Jerusalem, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights and the Beatat Coalition for Housing and Land Rights) and most recently from the Harvard Law School and the UN Human Rights Council.
The racist nature of the Israeli state was evident from its inception, according to the AI report: “Since its creation, the Israeli state has enforced massive and cruel land seizures to dispossess and exclude Palestinians from their land and homes”, thus rendering them “a group with perpetual lesser rights”.
In case any doubt remained, Israel in 2018 adopted the Nation State Law – later upheld by the country’s supreme court – which specifies that the country is a state only of its Jewish inhabitants.
We note that critics of your historic decision have invoked the so-called IHRA definition of “anti-Semitism”, one of whose accompanying examples claims that calling the State of Israel “a racist endeavour” should itself be seen as tantamount to racism. This is no more than a cynical attempt at truth-suppression by vested interests, directly analogous to climate change denialism in the face of the overwhelming scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming.
According to a recent opinion poll commissioned by the Australia-Palestine Advocacy Network, most Australians support both the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and the ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court. The former is made impossible by Israel’s blatant ongoing theft of Palestinian land; the latter should rule that the entire program to build Jewish-only settlements, or colonies, in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, is a war crime. The Fourth Geneva Convention baldly states: “An occupying power must not move any part of its population into the territory it occupies”.
The IHRA definition has been adopted by political parties and institutions in shadowy meetings through bullying by the Israel lobby, including here in Australia. It is a plot to thwart public opinion as a factor to be considered in the formulation of government policy.
A minimum expectation for such a policy, to reflect both the established facts about Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, and Australian public opinion, would be to adopt the three key demands of the BDS movement: an end to the occupation of 1967; equal rights for all citizens of Israel to replace the panoply of apartheid laws, and support for the right of return by Palestinians driven out of their homes in the racist campaign of ethnic cleansing at Israel’s establishment in 1948.
In this context, we thank and congratulate you for your initiative, and look forward to working with you to promote peace and justice for all the peoples of Palestine.
Motion: UMSU stands with Palestine – BDS and Solidarity Policy
In the late 1800s, Political Zionism was born to establish a Jewish home in Historic Palestine, disregarding the Indigenous Palestinians living there. This colonial project has led to the establishment of the state of Israel, the blockade of Gaza and the occupa#on of the West Bank through massacres, forced expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Israel has been deemed as a se8ler colonial apartheid state. It continuously denies the native Palestinians of their right to self-determination, freedom, dignity and equality. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges ac#on to pressure Israel to comply with interna#onal law.
With the recent bombing of Gaza, Israel has carried out a police raid at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Israeli forces have detained 500+ and injured 170+ Palestinians in Jerusalem since the beginning of Ramadan. These Palestinians were simply congrega#ng and praying at the mosque, which is one of the few remaining public spaces for Pales#nians in Jerusalem.
Students in Palestine and around the world have been key participants in the fight against the illegal occupation of Palestine, protesting, organizing, and creating a discussion on respective campuses. Many student unions and associations across Europe, North America, and Australia have formally endorsed BDS or some version of solidarity, it’s long overdue for a clear and firm stance by UMSU on these crimes. Policy, UMSU stances and actions:
General Stance: UMSU stands against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and condemns the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians
UMSU supports the self-determination of the Palestine people and their right to engage in self-defence against their occupiers
UMSU deems Zionism as a racist, colonial ideology UMSU rejects Israel’s continued settlement, expansion, and annexation of Palestinian land
UMSU condemns the Australian government’s support for Israel and its ongoing crimes including occupation, settlement, expansion, and ethnic cleansing.
UMSU condemns any and all forms of antisemitism against students of the Jewish faith and stands in solidarity with Jewish students.
UMSU recognises that Israel’s actions are not representative of the Jewish community. Similarly, Israel’s crimes are its responsibility alone and not that of Jewish people worldwide.
UMSU strongly endorses that Judaism and Zionism are not to be conflated as one
UMSU supports the academic boycott movement of Israeli institutions
UMSU calls on the university to participate in an academic boycott and cut ties with Israeli institutions, researchers, and academics that support the Israeli oppression of Palestinians
Divestment Actions and support:
UMSU calls on the university to divest from corporations complicit in and profit from the Israel apartheid Direct the CEO to update the UMSU ethical register and boyco8 companies that support and profit from the Israeli apartheid in line with the BDS Australia organization guidelines.
UMSU publishes a statement prepared by the UMSU POC department and relevant student groups announcing this policy and its support for Palestnian rights.
To direct the General Secretary to update the UMSU stance booklet to reflect this policy and subsequent vote on it.
To direct the President and POC officer to send a letter of support to the Australian Centre for International Justice affirming UMSU’s support for Palestine on behalf of UMSU.
Update: This petition was signed by 21,991 Australians in the limited time it was online (4 weeks) and was presented to the Australian Federal parliament in August 2021. The then Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne responded to this petition and her letter is here and copied below.
May 27, 2021 PETITION TO THE AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL PARLIAMENT
BDS Australia believes that it’s time the people who want to see justice for Palestinians, tell our politicians that it’s time to sanction Israel. We have one month until this petition is closed and it will be presented to the parliament. Australia is obliged to take action to support international law. BDS Australia is committed to championing the rights of Palestinians in law.
Successive Israeli governments have severely discriminated against and brutally dominated Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948. The latest attacks in Gaza and throughout East Jerusalem, the West Bank and inside Israel show that the Nakba has never ended. The systematic oppression of Palestinians amounts to grave breaches of international law and the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. Palestinians have been subject to ongoing largescale military assaults and an illegal 14-year physical and economic blockade in Gaza; a brutal 54-year military occupation; decades-long restrictions on freedom of movement; widespread imposition of an illegal settlement enterprise; confiscation of land and mass denial of residency rights. These actions intentionally and severely deprive millions of Palestinians of key fundamental rights and protections including the right to self-determination, the right of return, the right to equality and non-discrimination, and the rights to life, liberty, health, water, and security. The Australian Government has a responsibility as a signatory to numerous international treaties to take action against Israel due to these grave violations of international law, which are also criminal offences under Australian law.
We therefore ask the House to 1) publicly condemn Israel’s assaults on Palestinians. 2) support targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel. 3) support the suspension of defence cooperation with Israel and end defence industry partnerships. 4) introduce legislation to ban all settlement goods and services from entering Australia. 5) prevent Australian companies from operating, trading, or investing in settlements or contributing to their maintenance and/or expansion.
Response by the then Foreign Minister, Marise Payne October 7, 2021
Eminent American-Jewish international legal scholar Emeritus Professor Richard Falk, will be in Sydney next week. Professor Falk is a tireless advocate for the universal application of international human rights law as the basis for a sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine. He was United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967 from 2008 to 2014.
We are disappointed that his views have been characterised as controversial and that, baselessly, he has been labelled ‘antisemitic’ by some pro-Israel commentators, such as in last week’s edition of Australian Jewish News (AJN). Disappointingly the editor of the AJN has so far refused to publish Professor Falk’s point-by-point refutation of the allegations made in AJN, so we publish it here.
We read with alarm that an application has been made to the Minister for Immigration, David Coleman MP, to revoke Professor Falk’s visa. This week we wrote to Minister Coleman, as well as to Senator Keneally as shadow minister, seeking their reassurance that Professor Falk will have no difficulty entering Australia on 2 July.
In reply to Jewish News, Professor Falk asks what is controversial about his view that sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians ‘depends on respect for Palestinians’ rights and an end to Israeli violations of international law.’ As UN Special Rapporteur he was accused of being ‘antisemitic’ or a ‘self hating Jew.’ Yes, he criticised states ‘from the perspective of international law and morality’, but has never criticised the ethnicity or religious identity of any people. Yes he has written about the ‘collective punishment’ of the civilian population of Gaza ‘which is unconditionally prohibited by an occupying power in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.’ That writing ‘was intended as a wakeup call to encourage a more humane and legally appropriate approach to the civilian population of Gaza.’
Barrister and author Greg Barns issued this statement supporting Professor Falk’s visit:
‘In a liberal democracy freedom of speech and ideas must include the ability to present divergent views and opinions on issues. The conduct of Israel and the treatment of the Palestinians is no exception to that core value. Yet too often in Australia critics of Israel and those who, like Richard Falk bring their expertise to the issue and reveal uncomfortable truths, are harassed and bullied by elements of the pro Israel lobby. This preparedness to shut down criticism of Israel should have no place in a nation that purports to defend freedom of speech and freedom of thought.’
Stuart Rees OAM, Professor Emeritus, Univ. of Sydney and founder of the Sydney Peace Prize notes:
‘Zealous supporters of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians display an appalling cruelty and total indifference to the rules of international law. In response to such cruelty, Professor Richard Falk, a highly distinguished jurist and political scientist, has spent a lifetime working to promote peace with justice to benefit Israelis as well as Palestinians. Despite being vilified for his efforts, he continues to advocate respect for universal human rights and will not be stifled or intimidated by bullies. The Australian BDS movement is privileged to welcome Professor Falk to Sydney. He will address one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues, a future for Palestine. ‘
A Future For Palestine, with Professor Richard Falk – presentation, then in conversation with Professor Stuart Rees OAM Parliament of NSW, Theatrette, Macquarie St, Sydney Thursday 4 July, 2019, 6-8pm
This website is maintained by BDS Australia, which is affiliated with the coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement and by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a BNC member organisation.